U.S. Quarter Featuring NASA Astronaut Sally Ride Is Now In Circulation

The quarter is part of the new American Women Quarters Program.

Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space. It was a big moment, and in another major move, Sally Ride will be gracing the front of the U.S. quarter.

In 2021, the U.S. Mint made the announcement regarding their American Women Quarters Program, which is a four-year program that brings to light the achievements of women in US history, and honors all their accomplishments.

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As part of the program, there will be five new designs released every year through 2025 – bringing the total up to 20 women! The first quarter featured Maya Angelou, and it came out back in January 2022.

Joining her next was Sally Ride, who went into circulation on March 21, 2022 – this now brings the total number of women currently on US currency to five.

These quarters have the portrait of George Washington on one side, and the specific women on the other. The George Washington portrait actually dates back to the design made in 1932 by Laura Gardin Fraser in commemoration of the president’s 200th birthday!

Photo: Pixabay/AzamKamolov

As for the portrait of Sally Ride, it was designed by Elana Hagler, then sculpted by Phebe Hemphill. According to the U.S. Mint website, Hagler designed it to show Ride beside the window of a space shuttle – an image whose inspiration was sparked by Ride’s own quote, “But when I wasn’t working, I was usually at a window looking down at earth.”

Ride’s career took off in 1978, one year after NASA commenced the search for female astronauts in 1977. At the time, she was studying physics at Stanford University when she noticed that the school newspaper had an ad seeing women for the program.

Ride actually defended her thesis mere days prior to making the drive out to Houston to embark on her training program. She was one of six women who joined a class of twenty-nine men that year. Little did she know she would go on to become the first American woman in space, and the third woman in space worldwide.

Photo: RPA Photo Archive

But she didn’t go into the great beyond just once. She actually completed two Space Shuttle missions onboard the Challenger – once in 1983 and then again in 1984. Besides being the first American woman in space, she was also the youngest American astronaut to go into space as she went when she was just 32 years old. While onboard the Challenger, Ride’s job was to operate the shuttle’s robotic arm in order to deploy satellites into space. How cool is that?

She retired from NASA in 1987 and then began to teach at the University of California in San Diego. Besides teaching, she co-founded Sally Ride Science with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy back in 2001, aiming to promote equity and encourage all students – particularly females – to pursue STEM studies and careers. She passed away in 2012, but both her NASA and teaching legacies have lived on through her foundation and all the Sally Ride Science books, programs, and science festivals, continuing to inspire students everywhere.

Photo: flickr/
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

According to Nerdist, this past March, Ride’s partner, O’Shaughnessy, gave an interview in which she explained the magnitude of the American Women Quarters Program, saying, “It sends a positive message about how we value women. Just imagine a little girl or boy who is saving pennies, dimes, and quarters for something special. They hold their coins and treasure them. They turn each coin over in their hand and stare at the image and words. If all they ever see are white male faces, the little boy or girl may never feel a sense of belonging. A sense that they, too, can make a difference.”

What do you think of the American Women Quarters Program? What women from our history books would you like to see featured? Let us know!